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Dramashop one-act plays mark the end of an era

STUDENT-WRITTEN ONE-ACTS

Presented by MIT Dramashop.

A Place of Disaffection, by Michael Malak, directed by Larry DeLuca.

Lie Low, Sweet Wind Blow, by Julio Friedmann, directed by Per-Gunnar Ostby.

uh-uh! written and performed by

The Popular Front for the Salvation of

Dramashop.

Choose Me, by Peter Parnassa, directed by Barak Yedidia.

Parts, by Peter Parnassa and Alexander Shakar, directed by Michael Malak.

Kresge Little Theatre, March 16 to 18.

By PAULA CUCCURULLO

SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART, HAVING bizarre dream sequences, deciding whether to succeed in business or live for yourself, losing and trying to rediscover a love of life, poking fun at modern theater... what do all of these situations have in common? These were the main ideas running through the Dramashop student-written one-act plays performed last weekend. This program has been traditional at MIT for almost four decades, offering aspiring writers and students unable to commit to a major production an opportunity to participate in theater in a less intense setting. Unfortunately, if current sentiment remains unchanged, last weekend's program will be the last. Considering the fine performance, it was a grand finale to a series that should never have ended.

The first two plays, set in dorm rooms and containing the aforementioned dream sequences, were similar in that they portrayed the ups and downs of life as a college student. However, they were quite different in theme and mood. A Place of Disaffection, by Michael Malak '89, was the story of Crandon Yates, a would-be poet (not to be confused with a writer of poems -- according to Crandon, poets have to wear black). He is convinced that a poet must suffer for his craft to become great, until he realizes (in the dream, based on A Clockwork Orange, perhaps one of the best-directed scenes in the play) that suffering does not necessarily lead to greatness. With the help of some fine dialogue, Daniel Gilly '85 was wonderfully deadpan as Crandon -- his description of a typical Tom Cruise movie was hilarious. The other characters in the play were not as well-defined as Crandon and left the audience confused about his relationship with them. Though the playwright wanted to imply that Crandon was isolating himself, it was not that obvious in the interactions seen on stage. The last line, implying a trite happy ending, seemed out of place. All in all, however, it was a mostly enjoyable play.

Julio Friedmann's ('87) Lie Low, Sweet Wind Blow was much darker, though it had its humorous moments. Two roommates -- Stephen, a neurotic, shy musician, and Gordon, a hard-drinking writer of bizarre works like The Virgin Muffy -- are both avoiding some hard truths in their life, each in his own unique way. Stephen has turned to God and self-denial to forget the pain of his childhood, including a suggestion of rape by his father. Gordon drinks more heavily when he realizes how badly he is doing in school, rather than doing something to improve his lot. Barbara Moore G, who played Stephen due to a lack of male participants but still made the part her own, and Derek Clark '89 as Gordon were masterful in their roles; though they had their moments of overkill, they made the drama and humor of the play come to life. Stephen's relations with his mother (Marcella Obdrazalek '92), both in reality and fantasy, were especially harrowing and moving.

Choose Me, one of two works by Peter Parnassa, came off as the weak link of the evening's performances. A sort of Wall Street-esque morality play (one character even slicked his hair back `a la Gordon Gekko), it seemed to be unsure of itself and what it wanted to say. The characters needed more definition, as did the mood of the piece, especially at the end of the first half and beyond. The play does have potential, and the performances were enjoyable, especially that of Heidi Gibson '92 as the power-hungry executive caught in his own trap -- another example of cross-casting that worked extremely well.

Parnassa's other play, Parts, written with Alexander Shakar, as well as uh-uh! -- a satire on the IAP production aha! -- by a group calling itself The Popular Front for the Salvation of Dramashop, were both broad satires on modern theater and method acting. The humor flew fast and furious in both works, with stereotypical situations and characters familiar to all given new life and Dramashop in-jokes becoming obvious from the roars of laughter in certain areas of the room. Soliloquies, understudies as bimbos, straight men, performance art, directors as gods, untalented playwrights (as well as playwrights as part of their own play, a neat twist) -- no possible situation was safe from attack. For the most part, the attacks were hilariously on-target.

Both of these plays, particularly the latter, were especially topical in the face of the demise of this popular forum for student creativity in favor of the newer, more "modern" outlook of Theater Arts Director Alan Brody. At the question-and-answer session after the plays, the sentiment was definitely one of sadness and hurt at the end of an era, including the departure of Robert Scanlan, longtime director of the company. Both he and this enjoyable program will be missed, both by the Dramashop members and the loyal audience they have earned over the years.